It’s a sign of how strong the Battery has been at home that a draw was a frustrating result.
After Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls II finished 1-1, the players put their hands on their knees, the coaching staff looked frustrated, and the general feeling was “this one got away from us.”
Of course, a lot of that had to do with the frantic ending to what was an evenly contested game. Ricky Garbanzo hit the post on the final kick of the game, and a minute or two before that Sebastien Thuriere was brought down in the box on what might have been a penalty.
NYRB II had a great chance of its own to win after the tackle on Thuriere, as Anatole Abang split the defense with a counterattack up the middle. Goalkeeper Odisnel Cooper had to come way outside of his area to cut off the play, and fortunately for Charleston Abang was unable to get a shot on goal.
Garbanzo’s chance came right after that. Thuriere scooped up an errant clearance from the Red Bulls a few yards outside of the box, and got the ball to Justin Portillo after a quick pass. Portillo took a shot from the top of the box that was saved by goalkeeper Rafael Diaz, but the rebound fell to the feet of Garbanzo. Diaz was on the ground and it looked like Garbanzo was sure to score from the left side, but his shot banged off the post and out of bounds, and then the ref blew his whistle and ended the match.
The tie was the first time since a 2-2 draw with Dayton on August 8th of last season that Charleston didn’t win at home. The last home loss, excluding the US Open Cup shootout defeat, was to Wilmington on May 10.
Charleston almost made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute. Quinton Griffith made a blazing run down the right wing in the 63rd minute and slid a ball into the box where two Battery players were streaking towards the goal. Diaz came out to stop Garbanzo from making a play, but the ball went between the two players and right to the feet of Dane Kelly, who was facing a wide-open goal. However, Kelly slipped while shooting and his shot bounced off the post.
NYRB II equalized five minutes later.
The main thing that has become apparent about this team through the first four games is that the bench is extremely deep. Charleston has had to shuffle a few players around in these opening games of the year, but it hasn’t affected the team’s chemistry or game plan.
Saturday it was captain Jarad van Schaik that was forced to sit on the sidelines, as Charleston Coach Mike Anhaeuser waited for him to be back to 100 percent from a knee injury he picked up against Harrisburg. The injury isn’t too serious, since van Schaik played the entire match two weeks ago, but there’s no point in risking a further injury this early on.
Especially with the depth this squad has.
Thuriere made his first start in place of van Schaik and looked good in the process. Thuriere is a big guy, and his physical strength came in handy against a strong NYRB II defense that bullied Kelly for much of the game.
Memo Rodriguez also made his first start, and did what every player hopes to do in his first start – score a goal. He filled the spot that’s been held by Garbanzo in the first three games. The two players are used in a very similar way — play in the middle, go forward, help move the ball around. Anhaeuser said he wants to find a way for Rodriguez to get on the field more often, noting that the 19-year-old is used to playing a little deeper than he did on Saturday.
“It’s a different position for him. He likes to be a little deeper, but where he’s good is around the box,” he said. “He’s good at taking a ball and finishing so it was great for him to get a goal and get his feet wet.”
Anhaeuser has been able to rotate his subs in frequently, and that continued on Saturday, as Garbanzo came in for Rodriguez in the 59th minute, Zach Prince for Maikel Chang in the 64th, Heivel Cordoves for Kelly in the 72nd, and Dante Marini for O’Brian Woodbine in the 81st.
While the Battery was without its captain, it regained Griffith, who had not played since the season-opener against Toronto on March 21 when he also picked up a slight injury. Griffith usually plays in the back line as a right back, but he can also play in the midfield, and that was where he was used Saturday.
Charleston kept the same 4-2-3-1 formation it has been using, and put Griffith in as the “attacking” midfielder on the right side. He had a great game in that role. His speed has always been his biggest weapon, and he had a good game attacking NYR BII’s flanks. Griffith has been a frequent distributor on the attack this season, and since there was a line of defenders behind him on Saturday he could make even more attacking runs without worrying as much about leaving the team caught out. And of course, having a player who excels at playing defense also helped to stymie the visitors in the midfield.
As for that back line, it was the same lineup that Charleston has put out in the two games when Griffith was unavailable. Woodbine played right back, Emmanuel Adjetey played on the left, and Shawn Ferguson and Taylor Mueller patrolled the middle as the center backs. Kelly was the lone forward.
45+2 minute, GOAL Charleston (Rodriguez)
Rodriguez’s goal in stoppage time of the first half really opened up the game. Not that it wasn’t a good game before the goal, but trailing forced NYRB II to take more chances, therefore leading to Charleston having more chances of its own and a more open game.
Adjetey made a quick throw in to Kelly, who was closely guarded by Andrew Jean-Baptiste. He forced Kelly to retreat towards the corner flag, but Kelly quickly turned and hit a hard, low cross into the box with his left foot. It landed perfectly at the feet of Rodriguez, who curved the ball into the right side of the net. Anhaeuser said it took a deflection, but I’ve watched it several times on the live feed replay and to me it looks like it just went in straight off of Rodriguez’s foot. But he was on field level so I’ll take his word for it.
Regardless, it was a beautiful goal. The fact that it came from a quick throw-in was appropriate for the first half of that game, when NYRB II’s back four shut down a lot of Charleston’s attack.
68th minute, GOAL NYRB II (Abang)
Five minutes after Kelly’s shot hit the post, the Red Bulls equalized with a goal that came from the head of Anatole Abang. NYRB II earned a free kick after a foul was called on Garbanzo, and Sean Davis played the ball in the air.
Abang was the first one to it at the near post, and he snapped the ball behind him and into the net. It was a demoralizing moment that came after Charleston had thought it was going to put the game to bed, but to the team’s credit they didn’t play frustrated or deflated. Rather, they kept pushing for the win, and got more aggressive as the second half went on.
As I watched the final few minutes, I thought this was a team playing like they were down a goal, not level. That’s a good sign for a confident team playing at home.
Mueller said the team played much better in the second half compared to the first 45 minutes, when possession leaned more towards the visitors and the Battery had to play for quick counterattacks.
“We had a lot more of the ball, we got it wide, getting good chances and got fouls. Obviously we were a little bit unlucky with calls at the end there,” he said.
The exact team that the Red Bulls were going to field was a bit of a mystery. Two weeks ago the MLS Red Bulls loaned 11 — yes, 11 — players to the USL side for their matchup with Toronto FC II since the MLS team had the week off. NYRB II won 4-1, and all the goals were scored by loaned players.
The MLS side played on Friday, so they had time to send some extra players down if they wanted to. Five players signed to MLS contracts started against Charleston on Saturday, including three of the goalscorers from the win over TFCII. (McLaws, Abang and Stolz.) Davis actually made an appearance for NY on Friday when he was subbed on in the 86th minute of his team’s 2-0 win over San Jose.
The other two MLS players that started against Charleston were Jean-Baptiste and Karl Ouimette. Jean-Baptiste has traveled a lot in his four-year career. He was drafted by Portland in 2012, and made 31 appearances with the Timbers before joining Chivas USA. Injuries hampered him in Los Angeles and he only made 10 appearances on the ill-fated team that ended up being acquired by MLS and ceasing operations after last season. The Red Bulls acquired him during the offseason, but he has only played for the USL team so far.
Ouimette made his professional debut for Montreal and made 20 appearances with them in three seasons, but he has yet to play for the Red Bulls.
The rest of the NYRB II roster was made up of USL signings and academy players.
— When I first saw Thuriere go down in the box in stoppage time, I thought it was a penalty. It looked like it from my angle between the two benches. But when I went back and looked at it online, I can understand why the referee didn’t call it. It looks like feet might have been tangled, but it wasn’t convincing enough that I would call a penalty in stoppage time of a tied game.
— Having said that, the referee didn’t exactly have a great game. There were several questionable calls for both sides, and in the first half it appeared that the official stopped play for an injury when Charleston was having a really good scoring chance. The Battery had numbers going forward just outside of the area when the whistle sounded and the ref stopped play to check on the player who was down on the ground, on the other side of the midfield line. He had been on the ground for maybe a minute already, but I guess the referee didn’t see him. Maybe he called a foul during the build up, but I didn’t see any indication that it was anything other than the injured player.
In addition to the Thuriere play, Anhaeuser thought his team had a good argument for another penalty in the second half. Garbanzo had a huge breakaway from midfield, but Diaz sprinted out of his box to clear the ball with his hands. He slid into Garbanzo and deflected the ball away. Charleston appealed for a foul but the referee said the keeper got the ball first. After the game, I asked Anhaeuser if he thought the team deserved a penalty. I was referring to Thuriere, forgetting about Garbanzo’s in the chaos of stoppage time.
“Which one? Ricky I think has a lump in his leg, but the ref maybe was a little behind the play. This one here the linesman was in good position but you know what, we made it difficult. We could have really probably put them away but we did some things to hurt ourselves and give them a lot of chances in the end,” Anhaeuser said.
— The attendance Saturday was 4,188. Last season, the average home attendance was around 3,770. The first home game against Toronto drew 4,536 fans, while the game against Harrisburg on April 4th saw 3,026 fans. That dip can be explained by the fact that it was Easter weekend and many people were out of town.
If you’ve been to a game recently – and if you’re reading this there’s a pretty good chance you have – then you’ve heard the Battery fight song made by local band First World Problem that plays before kickoff.
It’s a fantastic song to get you ready for some soccer, and now the band is shooting a music video to go along with it. They’re asking all Battery fans interested to come out to The Sparrow in North Charleston for the video shoot on Sunday. Here’s a link to the Facebook event where you can find more information.
Charleston is playing at Wilmington at 3 p.m. , and The Sparrow will be showing the game live. So come out in Battery gear, cheer on the team, and then stick around to be part of what will hopefully be a very cool video.